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The 19 Steps to Turn Your Nonfiction Book Into an Online Course...
10 min read

The 19 Steps to Turn Your Nonfiction Book Into an Online Course...

The 19 Steps to Turn Your Nonfiction Book Into an Online Course...

Want to make money from your expertise even while you sleep?

As little as 20 years ago, it paid to be an author with expertise in a particular field just based on book sales. Nonfiction books could generate excellent passive income if you got the subject right.

Now, let’s face it, few people make good money from writing books.

Many small business owners author how-to books that never make it to the printing press and end up being given away digitally for free!

What most writers don't realise, however, is that there is still a way to monetize their nonfiction book: turn it into an online course.

This is easier said than done, but we've written this article to help you do exactly that.

Below we've laid out exactly how you can create a popular online course, step-by-step, that will generate income for you around the clock, without you needing to be there!

Check out our starter sales funnel for your online course »

So, how exactly do you turn your book into an online course?

To make this a little easier to follow, we’ve separated the overall project requirements into four basic steps:

  1. Planning your online course
  2. Creating media for your course
  3. Content development
  4. Marketing your course

Each of these sections is very important—don’t be tempted to skip anything.
So let’s get straight into it...

Planning your online course

1. Start with the end result.

What end result do you want your course participants to achieve?  What will they accomplish?

You must start with the end-goal in mind and work backward.

Don't start designing your course until you fully understand what are the end goals and objectives.

For instance, if your nonfiction book is about how to run a tax-effective small business, your primary goal may be that you'd like small business owners to be able to legally minimize the amount of tax they pay, thereby helping them to free-up funds to reinvest in their business.  

Make sure that your primary 'end-result goal' is the focus and foundation of your course; every module you create should be created with this objective in mind.

What are your goals in life?
Photo by Markus Winkler / Unsplash

As well as helping you to shape the content for your course, the end-result objective you establish will be your “hook” to get your subscribers to buy into the course you're going to create.

2. Organize your chapters into lessons.

If your nonfiction book is well-structured, it probably has a number of chapters covering specific topics or steps that you've put together sequentially to enable your readers to learn the key points, and to educate them on what you want them to be aware of and perhaps what they can achieve.

Your online course will naturally have lessons or “modules,” not chapters, but the concept is similar.

So, as a starting point for your course content, make sure that your book has been divided logically into key steps or topics.

3. Ensure that each lesson covers one major takeaway.

You’re the expert, but your subscribers won’t be experts.  That’s why they’re subscribing to your course!

So keep it simple.  As you consider your course modules, make sure that each module offers only one major takeaway.  This will keep the content manageable and digestible.  If it’s not digestible, it’s not actionable, and this means you will lose your audience.

A good guideline here is to ask yourself:  Does the key takeaway from this module take me longer than ten minutes to explain?

If it does, you almost certainly need to consider further breaking down the module into separate, more digestible, lessons.

Creating Media for Your Course

4. Decide on the type of media to best communicate your message.

With books, you are limited to text and images.

With online courses, you have many more options with regards to the media you use to teach your audience. For instance:

  • Screencasting: with screencasting tools, you can deliver lessons by sharing your screen with your subscribers, whilst directing your audience through the course and learning points by using video and audio.
  • PDFs and spreadsheets: downloadable documents will help your audience further engage with your content and perceive real value in your course.
  • Text and photos: text and images can still be used to explain ideas and support the other media you're using (and another bonus: text can often be directly transferred from a book to online format).

Of course, people learn in different ways.  So it might be better to “mix it up” and use a variety of media to deliver learning points, which brings us to the next point …

5. Incorporate video into your modules.

Video is generally considered the most engaging, multi-sensory media to use for communication.  It also helps to build a stronger relationship between the course creator and student.

So video, in general, is the better way to engage an audience and to get your points across, especially if you are mainly targeting Millennials.

A snap shot of our Sony FS7 cinema camera system from our film set, while producing a documentary series for the Holocaust Center for Humanities. Here we are interviewing a local high school about their experience with some of the Center’s teaching materials.
Photo by Sam McGhee / Unsplash

While many people initially struggle with sitting in front of a camera, it’s the quality of your content and the educational points you're presenting that really matter.

You will improve your delivery over time if you create scripts or a list of prompts to consult ready for recording. And naturally, if you make mistakes, it's easy to re-record portions of your videos.

Besides, your videos usually only need to be five to ten minutes long each.

Content Development

6. Create specific actions for course takers to implement.

It’s important for your course participants to see real-world progress and to be able to measure the impact that your course is having on them.

For that reason, you need to create clear and motivating requests for action in every module you're offering.  

This will help your students use the takeaways you're offering and apply them to their own situation.  

Make sure each action item is clearly communicated and visible.

7. Create checklists, cheat sheets, and decision trees.

To help your participants to turn insights into action, you can use a variety of tools in your course, including:

  • Checklists
  • Cheat sheets
  • Decision trees

These are great shortcuts that are easily accessible and digestible, helping participants to remember what the action items are, along with why and how they need to apply them to their own unique situations.

8. Consider adding a workbook, reflective exercises, and quizzes to aid learning.

Another way to aid learning is to incorporate a workbook, reflective exercises, and quizzes in your course.

These tools can help boost engagement in your course material and assist in enabling your participants to grasp the real takeaways that need to be applied in their lives.

White work table with notes, smartphone and laptop
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM / Unsplash

Quizzes especially offer a fun format that can help your course customers check their understanding of the learning points.

9. Use expert or influencer videos as part of your course.

Do you know influencers in your sector who would be willing to contribute to your online course?

If so, they can add value to your course content by presenting a different perspective on the content within your modules.

Interviewing an influencer or respected voice in your field not only boosts overall credibility and engagement, but it can often boost course outcomes—very important for your reputation and word-of-mouth marketing that will inevitably result in increased sales.

10. Survey your participants and adjust the content.

It’s unlikely that your content will be perfect from day one. Build some flexibility into your course content so that you can adjust it and upgrade your offering over time.

Once your course is up and running, you can develop additional (or edited) content according to feedback from your participants.

Survey existing students to see what learning outcomes they value the most.

If you then shape additional content and adapt your course marketing to focus on these learning outcomes, you should gain more traction with your target audience.

Ask participants questions such as:

  • “What’s your biggest challenge with [topic]?”
  • “How are you dealing with those challenges currently?”
  • “What would solving this problem allow you to do?”

11. Use a cohort model to further learning.

As you develop your course, consider building an interactive community around it. You have all the tools at your fingertips to do this (more about social media later).

A cohort model enables students to progress through the modules together with a partner.

Pairing students together typically furthers their learning by helping them put material into practice and allowing them to keep each other accountable so that they both complete the course and take relevant action.

Marketing Your Course

12. Try pre-selling your course.

Before you spend too much time and money on marketing your course, find out if there really is a demand for it first.

You can do this by “pre-selling”  your course.

SALE – fashion victim consumer shopping
Photo by Markus Spiske / Unsplash

The purpose of this step is not necessarily to generate income but rather to check whether people are prepared to put their money where their mouth is—by leaving their credit card details.

If they aren't prepared to do this, you may need to go back and tweak your subject matter, content, or overall approach.

You could set up a survey of potential participants, asking them to review a one-page description of the course and to provide feedback.  

At the same time, ask those you survey if they’d be interested in putting a deposit down for the course so that they are first in line to sign up.  See how many respond positively.

This will either validate your course or give you the information you need on what adjustments you need to make to your offering before spending time and / or money on marketing.

13. Start with a pilot version.

As we mentioned, the first version of your online course is unlikely to be the final polished version.

Start with a pilot version, which you could discount for your first participants.  It could be, say, two or three modules long.  This will allow you to iron out any technical, learning or content issues.

Testimonials are especially important when you start out, so, during your pilot, why not encourage participants to provide testimonials and feedback in return for access to more modules or a generous discount off the full version of your course?

As soon as your course shows that it can sustain itself, you can release the full version.

14. Create an engaging name for your course.

So, what makes a great course name? It needs to pique curiosity and make people eager to learn more—not by trickery but by being authentic.

It should tick these three important boxes, and be:

  • Targeted precisely towards your audience
  • Results-oriented—focused on the end result that participants will achieve
  • Unambiguous—avoid jargon!

If you want to keep your book title as the name of the course, add a subtitle that accomplishes each of the above.

15. Include a money-back guarantee.

With so many online scams around, you need to convince your audience that you are credible. A money-back guarantee helps you do that.

Stock photo of the Business Man with a credit card by rupixen
Photo by rupixen.com / Unsplash

A great way to introduce this is to turn your primary course outcome into a promise for the customer … and a commitment to provide their money back if the promise is not delivered.  

For instance: Earn $50,000 as a paid professional speaker—or your money back!

16. Design a Facebook group page.

Don’t forget the power of social media in helping you to design and market your online course.

A Facebook group page can help you gather feedback, take questions, and start conversations with potential course participants.

You can also feature results (“wins”) that people have achieved from applying what they’ve learned from your course and display testimonials that add credibility to help increase sales of your course.  

You could even offer special promotions for group members.

17. Use video marketing to promote your course.

As well as using video within your course content, video can also help you market your course on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, your website and/or on your sales page.

People generally choose to work with people that they know, like, and trust.  That’s difficult to achieve online—but video can help you break down the barriers.

Create a video that shows participants what and how they will be learning and talk through all of your course's benefits.  Video is a free marketing tool that talks to people—in the language that they’re increasingly choosing over others.

18. Promote your course within your book.

If your book is going to be out there in circulation, as well as your course, it makes sense to promote your course within your book.

You can do this by:

  • Creating a landing page especially for readers of your book, offering extra resources/downloads, etc. if they enter their email addresses.
  • Setting up an autoresponder email series to market your course to these people.
  • Including a URL to your course landing page at the very front of your book, possibly, also, in the middle of your book somewhere, and certainly at the end of it (alternatively use QR codes).

19. Incentivize referrals.

Referrals are particularly important as your course gathers steam. People who have completed your course and enjoyed it are some of your best sources of promotion.

Photo by Ben White / Unsplash

How about creating a gift voucher or cash rebate system for people who refer you to another potential participant who then signs up for your course?

Create an army of online subscribers.

Having expertise and great ideas won’t necessarily help you make an income from online courses.

Expertise and great ideas are naturally the starting point, but the most successful passive income creators know that they need to package these ideas into a meaningful and marketable product in order to profit from them.

The above ideas should help you transform your book into something that will attract an army of online subscribers who adamantly want to transform their lives from the content you are offering through your course.

Check out our starter sales funnel for your online course »